Most of the first two turns is digging in... frantically. The side that gets its units to “fortified” status the quickest will be in a much better position moving forward. No reinforcements at all until T003, and even then they’re not significant. The increased replacement rate for rifle squads is already making a difference. We’ll see how it does after I lose a few rifle divisions down in the Don Front region. That being said, I’m already trying to hit Mark early and often. Much of it is artillery and air strikes, but a few local attacks were thrown in.
After some artillery bombardment, the narrow German bulge east of Leningrad should start to give way. The one limited attack with divisions from the 8th, 54th, and 2nd Shock on the eastern side of it forced back one German division, while another Panzer division held firm. It gives me hope that I can put up a better fight in this game, just that I was able to force a German division to retreat by attacking with severely depleted Russian divisions. Opening up this corridor should be the key to holding Leningrad for--hopefully--the remainder of 1942. But I expect Mark to make a serious play for the city soon, since it’s his key to opening up a super highway between the main Russian Front and the Finland-Karelian Front.
Just east of Gzhatsk, the 33rd Army has moved to the rear area, making way for the bulk of the Western Front mechanized forces. After some debate as to whether or not the mech units should rest for a turn before attacking, I launched a limited assault straight down the road toward Vyazma. The German 211. Division of the IX. Korps retreated to the north in disarray. My turn ended before I could follow up and capture the hex, but like the assault near Leningrad, it was a good tone to get here early. I’m planning on keeping constant pressure on this Rzhev salient, hopefully forcing Mark to syphon troops from other sectors to keep the Vyazma corridor open until he can withdraw the defenders at Rzhev.
Don Front - Voronezh
The main line has been withdrawn to a new position about 100 miles west of Voronezh. Typically in this scenario, the line is withdrawn all the way to the eastern banks of the Volga River, following the road from Yelets to Voronezh. I’m hoping this advanced position doesn’t come back to bite me in the ass. The line isn’t terribly strong, but should give Mark a headache and buy me some more time. As the line stretches southward, it forks. This was because the 6th Army couldn’t get far enough east before the cease fire lifted this turn. The 6th is positioned along a branch of the Don, down to where it meets the main branch. East at the main line, four armies are digging in, while hoping the 6th can hold up the Axis advance for an extra turn or two.
Don Front - Rostov
Usually the worst sector in the beginning of this scenario, I might have a fighting chance down here now. At least, Mark should not be able to blow right through in a matter of 7 or 8 turns. I’ve pulled back only 18th and 24th Armies, leaving the massive 54th in its front line position guarding the direct approach to Rostov. The biggest difference in this sector is the availability of the 45th and 46th Armies from the lower Caucasus. Of course, I had to give up 80 VPs to get them, but it should be well worth it. The 51st Army is stationed at the fork in the Don, east of Rostov. That’s a key intersection that I’m always scrambling to defend with patchwork formations. Now I have a full army ready and entrenching. Just south of Rostov, the 47th Army is digging in, preparing the position for when Rostov falls. The 45th Army has been transferred by rail right up to the front here, so it should be ready to deploy this next turn. The 46th Army was sent a bit north, east of Voroshilovgrad. There the 3rd Guards Tank will need infantry support once the Axis reach the river defenses. I’m also currently looking to transfer at least one more army down to this sector. It will likely have to come from the northwestern sectors. But I’m not sure at this point.
The Commonwealth X and XIII Corps are tasked with the defense of Tobruk and delay of the Axis north African command’s advance toward Egypt. I doubt Mark will send his troops too far south, away from supply lines, but I have to at least screen my southern front, should I be flanked.